19 Apr Telecommunications Regulatory Authority: VPN Services Are Allowed in UAE
In reply to the worrisome rumors spreading around social media websites that using Virtual Private Networks (or commonly known as VPN services) could get users fined or arrested, the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates said that there are no legislations against VPNs. Therefore, the use of these services by local and international companies is allowed in the UAE.
However, this does not mean that internet users can just freely do whatever they want. A recent amendment in UAE’s Cybercrime Law stated that “whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by another means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than Dh 500, 000 and not exceeding Dh 2 million, or either of these two penalties.”
Although they agency has relented on the use of VPN services, it has increased the fines for fraudulent activities, from the original Dh 15,000 – Dh 500,000 to Dh 500,000 – 2, 000, 000. It does not ban the use of VPN, but it restricts the use of a third-party IP address to commit or conceal a crime.
“The UAE is proud of being one of the countries that encourage investment and openness to ICT-based economic activities. This trend is embodied the UAE‘s history since the founding of the union in 1971,” said Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri, Director General of TRA.
Do You Need A VPN?
A virtual private network is a great tool for any internet user, since it creates a secure connection over a public connection. The internet has become an essential part of the economy, but it is also a haven for thieves, hackers, and scammers. Using a VPN service should be automatically on every user’s to-do list if they wish to protect their identities and sensitive data.
To protect your data, a VPN creates a ‘VPN tunnel’ between your computer and the target website that you are using. The tunnel is encrypted so that all of the data exchanged between your computer and the website cannot be read by anyone who tries to intercept and decrypt it. It also masks your IP address and your location by assigning you another IP address and a server in a totally different country that you can change whenever you want to.
Plenty of companies and businessmen rely on VPN services for their operations because virtual private networks also connect multiple computers to share resources with each other, even in remote distances. Employees can still work from home or in other places and access the company’s resources through their virtual private network. Without VPNs, business and financial transactions will not be secure anymore.
Dos and Don’ts When Using VPN Services
VPN services are not banned in UAE, especially if it is for business purposes and for the benefit of the economy, but misuse of these services to commit crimes and fraudulent activities are punishable by law.
“Business users can be held accountable, like the use of any other technology if it has been misused,” the TRA said. “Any misuse of the licensed and organized services in the UAE will lead to legal accountability. It is worth mentioning that the laws are targeting those who misuse the services and not those activities that are consistent with UAE’s laws.” said Kelly Blyth, senior associate at Clyde & Co., to Gulf News.
Offenses that are punishable by law through the use of virtual private networks include accessing and using gambling sites and services, and accessing, watching, and downloading obscene media and those which are not licensed for use in the UAE.
Cleofe Maceda of Gulf News also reports that IT experts also advise people to use virtual private networks carefully because you might breach international laws even if you are not violating those in the UAE. The security and freedom given by virtual private networks also needs to be exercised carefully so as not to avoid unintentionally making violations of the law in the attempt to follow one.
“Some sites that can’t be accessed here aren’t necessarily blocked by the government. The French TV channel for example is prohibited from broadcasting in this market by France. So effectively, when you access the channel using a VPN, you’re breaching the French law, not the UAE’s,” said a French expatriate working in the IT industry.
Upsides and Downsides of VPN Services
Just like in real life, our privacy on the internet is something that we should all take seriously especially because our identity and finances are at stake. Virtual private networks help us fortify our security by protecting us from hackers, scammers, and thieves on the internet while enabling you to access content in a remote area. It also allows you to exchange transactions safely and securely.
However, such services are still subject to fraudulent activities when used in a wrong manner. Internet users should always be vigilant with criminal activities on the internet. Using VPNs should be exercised with caution so as not to break laws.